Gere, Clooney boost Rome film fest

But the competition is getting mixed reviews from local press

ROME -- The Rome International Film Festival approached its halfway point boosted by the star power of Richard Gere and George Clooney, while the main competition received uneven reviews in the local press.

Gere is in town to promote "Hachiko: A Dog's Story," a remake of a 1987 Japanese film that tells the sentimental story of a dog's fidelity to its owner. It has elicited sobs from packed screenings as part of the Alice in the City sidebar.

Clooney, meanwhile, made a quick stop in town in connection with "Up in the Air," directed by Jason Reitman, who won the main Rome prize two years ago. Clooney, who plays an efficiency expert paid to fire people, arrived from the nearby set of "A Very Private Gentleman," set in the earthquake-stricken city of L'Aquila, east of Rome.

Clooney said during a briefing that his next film likely would be "The Challenge," a thriller partially set at Guantanamo Bay.
James Ivory's "The City of Your Final Destination" also screened out of competition. The film, completed in 2007, is Ivory's first without partner Ismail Merchant. In a roundtable discussion, he said his next project probably would be an adaptation of Shakespeare's "Richard II."

Among the weekend's other highlights were two Italian dramas: "Alza la testa," a story of family loss from Alessandro Angelini, and "Viola di mare," a Sicilian-based drama set amid the unification of Italy during the 19th century.

Despite the highlights, the main competition selection received mixed reviews from local media, though most of the films haven't screened.

The festival, which got under way Thursday, concludes Friday.